Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Addressing common challenges, part of Project Management Foundations: Change.
There are a few challenges with project changes that are common to projects and teams. Some of these challenges can be better or worse depending on your organization. The first challenge is unclear business requirement documents, or BRDs. The project plan is usually written well before the project work begins. So if the plan is unclear, you'll have to deal with a lot of changes to make your project successful. It's very difficult to work on a project when you're finding out what the product is, and also trying to deliver the project at the same time.
A requirements document should have a very clear list of the requirements. If you put in a few IOUs, then you're crafting a document that's not going to be very useful. I once worked for a project that was creating a student information system for K-12 schools. When the stakeholders created the requirements, they put an IOU in the document. They said they would find out more about the requirements once they showed the product to schools. The IOU cost the school months of back and forth change requests. They would've saved a lot of time if they just tied down the requirements at the beginning.
If you're starting a project and the requirements have more questions than answers, then you should be ready for a bumpy, change-filled ride. The stakeholders will still want a commitment in cost and schedule, but they won't tell you exactly what you're delivering. It's like trying to hire someone to paint your house without actually ever showing them your house. But often stakeholders see themselves as big picture and they want the project team to hammer out the details. So if you find yourself in one of these projects, then get ready for a lot of course corrections and changes.
The best thing that you can do in this situation is to create buffers in your schedule and budget. It's very likely that your scope will increase as your project moves along, so be sure you have a little extra money and time. If possible, try to make sure that you attend some of the requirements meetings, then you'll have more control over the quality of the requirements documents. Some extra meetings at the beginning might save you a lot of time later on. The second challenge you might have is managing the relationship with your stakeholders. Project managers and stakeholders will not always see eye to eye about what's best for the project.
Even the friendliest stakeholder will have some competing interest with the project manager. The stakeholder usually wants to add everything they can to the project while delivering for the lowest cost, and as soon as possible. The project manager wants to keep the project as predictable as possible. If the scope changes, the schedule and budget must also change. From a project manager's perspective, a successful project will delivery the full scope on time and within their budget. It's not to say that stakeholders don't appreciate predictability, it's just that many stakeholders see predictability as the project manager's problem.
So you could see how these competing interests are not always aligned. A stakeholder will be better celebrated if they deliver software that exceeds everyone's expectations. A project manager will be celebrated if they deliver a high quality project that had no surprises. To predict what will happen, you need to understand what motivates your stakeholder. If you understand that your relationship with the stakeholder is both cooperative and competing, then you'll better understand their requests. One thing you might notice is that stakeholders love changes but hate change requests.
That's because changes are often improvements, so they get closer to exceeding expectations. The project change requests are like the price tag. It's like trying to order your favorite meal while looking at the calorie count first. The conflict might be especially true if you recommend the change be rejected. The stakeholder might feel that you're actually trying to keep them from delivering the best product. Like many of the challenges in project management, the more you understand everyone's motivations, the fewer surprises you'll have.
Try to see what motivates your stakeholder, and you'll be in a better position to meet their expectations.
Along the way, learn how to effectively manage your project for change requests and deal with common obstacles. Also see how to find the balance between too much and too little change—either can be threat to your project.
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- What are project changes?
- Planning for changes
- Accepting or rejecting a change
- Understanding the risks
- Learning from your changes<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.